My decision to religiously follow 2013 Semi-Devil and Demi-Gods during its broadcast sprung entirely from my love for the subtheme song "Lovesick," whose segments were often inserted in the Hunan TV teaser trailers. I just grew madly obsessed with the song because the melody was reminiscent of traditional wuxia music. The lyrics of the song also aptly describes the tragic love between the Beggar Sect Leader, Qiao Feng, and the Murong clan's maidservant, A'zhu. Despite the intense negative reaction toward this remake, I found this adaptation rather watchable, particularly the Qiao Feng's story arc.
Compared to Yu Zheng's horrendous adaptation of another Louis Cha's novel (Swordman), Huace TV Production Group's Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils stays rather faithful to the original story. There is no crazy relationship tweaks or unnecessary love angst. My biggest complaint would be the overuse of CGIs and the bad acting of Kim Kibum's Duan Yu. The production should have capitalized on China's breathtaking natural landscape instead using CGI backdrops. But judging from the poorly designed costumes, this production probably did not budget well and spent all its money on the specific effects. It actually irks me more to see a poorly constructed computer generated scene than a backdrop in a sound stage. Fight scenes are above average at best. I also hate the anachronistic ending theme song which sounded like a piece of jazz music from the Glided Age and extremely inappropriate for a drama that takes place during the Song Dynasty. One Chinese netizen succinctly pinned the ending theme as a typical song people would sing together at charity event or something. LOL.
The one thing that this production does very well is its musical score. The memorable score just adds poignancy to scenes and the character plights. The unexpected onscreen chemistry between Wallace Chung and Jia Qing is also a good surprise. Though Wallace Chung's Qiao Feng is "softer" in mannerism than his predecessors, I feel this version does a good job in developing the burgeoning romantic relationship between A'zhu and Qiao Feng. Past adaptations have tended to emphasize more on Qiao Feng's masculine heroism and martial art prowess than his emotional turmoil in discovering his true ethnic identity. The 32-year old Qiao Feng spent a large part of his life practicing kungfu and completely devoted to the welfare the Beggar Sect. Women seems trivial and beyond his reach in his world ruled predominately by men. Besides his foster mother, Qiao Feng never had much interaction with another woman. When A'zhu suddenly pops up under his radar, he did not even see the poor girl as a woman, but as a ward that warrants his protection. To Qiao Feng, A'zhu was probably unisex. ROFL! Anyway, I just like the additional subtleties (e.g. stroke of the head) the director of this remake decided to include for A'zhu and Qiao Feng's story. Wallace Chung's Qiao Feng is definitely more reciprocal of A'zhu's affections than in older versions. In the past versions, the process of Qiao Feng falling in love with A'zhu often got overlooked and not as smoothly executed. Consequently, viewers felt more detached toward this couple compared to other character arcs like Duan Yu's infatuated love with Wang Yuyan. Due to a more "emotional" performance by Wallace Chung and Jia Qing, viewers have become more attentive toward the development of Qiao Feng and A'zhu.
Download "Lovesick" (痴情家 Chi Qing Jia) by Jia Qing
MP3 format 7.71 MB
Watch "Chi Qing Jia" in action
Short clip of A'zhu swearing to die with Qiao Feng rather than live alone.
Episode 17 at begins ~16:37